GOING WITH THE CROWD

riot-police-Benita was touring a Northern Asia country with her parents.  News that morning hadn’t been positive, and should’ve given pause for thought as the family planned their day’s activities.  Students at the university were expected to go on the rampage that day because they disagreed with some laws their government had implemented.  The report was not a news item on TV, but word spreads and is sometimes more accurate than news media bulletins.  Benita decided to do some last minute shopping anyway, and in spite of her parent’s protests, slipped away for a quick trip to the nearby shopping mall.  It was unlikely she’d be repeating this tour, and there were still many things she wanted to take home with her to remind her of the trip.

All was peaceful during the shopping expedition.  You can never trust gossip Benita thought to herself! She began to retrace her steps the short distance to her hotel, but on rounding the final corner a vast crowd of determined students filled the street and blocked her entry.  Some laughingly took her by the arm and included her in their forward march.  Benita was desperately worried, but the mood of students seemed relaxed and she began to enjoy the exhilarating feeling of being one with a crowd, and part of a cause; though she hadn’t the slightest idea what that cause was.  She couldn’t understand a word of the language, but did identify with the camaraderie of the march.

As students rounded the next corner they came face to face with reality.  Blocking their path was a formidable array of riot police in rather frightening outfits, each man behind metal shields carrying assault weapons.  In spite of the seriousness of the situation Benita had to smile. She imagined this is what the warriors of old would have looked like in their suits of armor as they went out to battle

But the matter was very serious, and Benita suddenly felt frightened and vulnerable.  Tear gas, stone throwing and hand-to-hand combat were exploding all around her, but it all seemed to move in slow motion in her mind.  The girl who neither understood the cause nor the language ended that day in a foreign prison, while desperate parents cancelled their air tickets and began the anxious process of trying to locate their daughter.

As Benita sat sobbing in her prison cell trying to piece together the events of that day and discover what went wrong, she made several resolutions.  If she ever got out of this mess she’d never return to this country again. That is a natural reaction given circumstances.

However if she did find her way to Asia again she’d  pay more careful attention to word of mouth communications, which are a vital part of survival in this part of the world.  Of course she should’ve paid more attention to her parent’s caution too, as they’d been around long enough to learn from their own mistakes.

Eventually it was all sorted out and authorities accepted Benita had been an innocent caught up in the crowd when the confrontation took place.  With apologies and much bowing all around Benita and her parents headed for the airport, holding their breath until they were safely in the air, and headed east for a long flight home.

 

“© Copyright Ian Grice 2014 All rights reserved

 

20 Comments Add yours

  1. Esther Norton says:

    What a frightful time for the family

    Sent from my iPad

    >

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    1. Yes it would be awful to be a stranger in a country and have one of your travelling family members disappear without knowing what happened to them.

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  2. Mags Corner says:

    So sad that the innocent sometimes are treated as guilty before they are proven innocent. They say everyone is innocent until proven guilty but that seems to not be the case way too many times. I am glad Benita and her family got out safely after that ordeal. Hugs

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    1. I guess that law standard applies in a court of law but it would not prevent the police arresting someone who it appeared was breaking the law. It would be so embarrassing.

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  3. To think innocent bystanders and civilians find themselves in such horrible situations (mob/jail) all over the world. Thanks for the reminder of all the good we enjoy, too, Ian.

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    1. Yes, we do live in a dangerous world today don’t we?

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  4. How easy it is to be pulled along on the spur of the moment. You did quite well to put us in a young girls shoes.

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    1. I’m sure many a young person and not so young has ended up in situations they never would have chosen had they thought it through carefully in the first place. Fortunately many of those bad decisions can be reversed but there are some decisions that have life time consequences.

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  5. stacilys says:

    Wow, what am experience. I’m sure she was frightened.
    =)

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    1. I’m always very cautious when travelling but realize if you’re caught unwittingly in such a situation there will be very unpleasant outcomes to deal with.

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  6. Madhu says:

    Ah how easy it is for a situation such as this to turn nasty! Young people tend to forget that second chances aren’t always guaranteed. Good one Ian.

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    1. There are occasions when people can become involved in something they either don’t understand or are caught up in unawares. The law doesn’t have the capacity to differentiate between those willingly into something judged anti-social or those swept into the situation unsuspecting. Both innocent and guilty are judged in those circumstances the same.

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  7. Eric Alagan says:

    You’ve used a real life situation and turned it into fiction – an enjoyable read, Ian.

    Jane’s comment about money changing hands brought out a smile for me.

    All good wishes,
    Eric

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    1. Haha Eric. These are things everyone in such societies knows about but do not speak of. Money changes hands in the West too but the public is not so well informed.

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      1. Eric Alagan says:

        You caught on, Ian.

        I’ve done biz in the West and know the value of a beer and a wink 😉

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      2. Asia is less complicated Eric. You know the rules there and sometimes you can get away with an expensive lunch! We in the West are much more devious.

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  8. jstansfeld says:

    A poignant story made all the more so by its credibility and sensitive narration. Benita was lucky that her parents and the authorities were able to reach an accord – in many places and times this would not have happened. You don’t say but I wonder if money changed hands as well. Sometimes the most innocent mistakes carry dire consequences – I am glad that, on this occasion , things got resolved amicably. I bet that Benita ended up a lot saner
    Cheerio, Jane

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    1. I guess protests and government crackdowns are becoming the norm internationally these days and one can be unlucky enough to be caught up in them without intent.

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  9. borika45 says:

    As I read this piece, I could feel Benita’s excitement turning to horror as she innocently gets caught up with the crowd and the nightmare that followed. You carried the emotion all the way through and I could feel the parents’ relief as they headed for the airport. This is a timely piece considering what is happening in Eastern Europe at the moment.

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    1. I picked this story up from something I read during a trip around Northern Asia during my days in Singapore. I’ve fictionalized the story so its not exactly as it was reported.

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